Category Archives: Premier League

Hornets abuzz in England

So much for picking Watford to be relegated from the Premier League.

I was dead wrong about the Hornets. Dead wrong.

Wins over Brighton, Burnley and Crystal Palace were nice, yes, but it all figured to end today when Tottenham came to Vicarage Road.

Instead, the Hornets will go into the international break level on points with Liverpool and Chelsea and now must be considered to be the favorite from outside the Big Six to make it to Europe.

Watford bested Tottenham 2-1 despite being thoroughly outplayed in the first half and falling behind 1-0 in the second half following an own goal.

Instead of folding, the Hornets stung back, with Troy Deeney in the 69th minute and Craig Cathcart in the 76th putting the home team in front. Watford held on for the final 13 minutes plus stoppage time to go to 4-0-0 for the first time since 1988, when the Hornets were in the second division.

Watford’s #1 fan, Sir Elton John, was enjoying it immensely, as were most of those at Vicarage Road. Who would have dreamed it?

Elsewhere, Manchester United defeated Burnley 2-0 despite playing the last 19 minutes with 10 men after Marcus Rashford was shown a red card, and Arsenal bested Cardiff 3-2.

Time to update how I think the table will look on Mother’s Day. Remember, the bottom three are relegated to the Championship, the top four qualify for the UEFA Champions League, fifth and sixth for the UEFA Europa League group stage, and seventh for the Europa League qualifying rounds:

20. Cardiff
19. West Ham
18. Huddersfield
17. Newcastle
16. Burnley
15. Southampton
14. Crystal Palace
13. Brighton
12. Fulham
11. Bournemouth
10. Wolves
9. Leicster
8. Everton
7. Arsenal
6. Watford
5. Manchester United
4. Chelsea
3. Tottenham
2. Liverpool
1. Manchester City

Does LSU play tonight? Asking for someone out there. I don’t know and I don’t care.

Big name Sunday

Three of the “Big Six” play in the Premier League today, all on the road: Arsenal at Cardiff City, Manchester United at Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur at Watford. In the last matchup, both teams have nine points from their first three matches and are seeking to stay level on points with Liverpool and Chelsea.

Arsenal keeps Cardiff winless. Cardiff has played two goalless draws vs. Newcastle and Huddersfield, but the Gunners will break down the Bluebirds’ defense enough to move level with Everton and Leicester with six points.

Tottenham ends Watford’s early run and keeps itself well within title conversation. Now Spurs need to get their new stadium at White Hart Lane open.

Manchester United’s woes have been well documented. Burnley’s have not, but the Clarets also desperately need a win at Turf Moor. NEITHER team gets the victory it wants. Draw.

It’s still pouring outside. Russell has received quite a bit of rain since yesterday evening. Not that I have anywhere to be.

Freedom without American football

Manchester City leads Newcastle at the Etihad, but it isn’t the blowout I expected. The defending Premier League champions are up 2-1 after 69 minutes.

Liverpool and Chelsea each went to 12 points earlier today, which I expected.

The Reds bested Leicester City 2-1 in the East Midlands, with the Foxes pulling together a fine performance in the second half, although it wasn’t enough to offset the terrible defending which allowed Liverpool to tally twice in the first half.

Chelsea scored twice in the second half to dismiss Bournemouth 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. The Blues still have their kinks to work out under Mauricio Sarri, but a lot better to do it when you’re 100 percent through four matches than any alternative.

West Ham is stuck on zero points, losing 1-0 to Wolverhampton at London Stadium as the Wolves scored late in second half stoppage time. It is Wolverhampton’s first PL victory since the spring of 2012. All that spending and what has it gotten the Hammers? Not a darn thing. The Championship looms in East London.

The draw I predicted on the south coast came to pass, and it came to pass by the exact score I predicted: Brighton & Hove Albion 2, Fulham 2. The Cottagers had the match dead to rights with a 2-0 lead, but their defense is a sieve. The Seagulls certainly would have dropped all three points had it been most any other team, save maybe West Ham or Cardiff, but they came back strong to gain a point at home. Considering Brighton has tallied only 11 points in 21 away matches since going up, it had better get all the points it can at the AMEX Stadium.

The other draw so far today was Everton 1, Huddersfield 1 at Goodison. The Terriers played a 5-4-1, bunkering in and trying to keep the Toffees from doing much damage. It worked to give Huddersfield a critical point. Every point figures to be critical for Huddersfield, who will be in or near the drop zone all season. Everton, though, has to be kicking itself after blowing winnable games with Bournemouth and Huddersfield. Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea will not be so forgiving.

Southampton shocked me with a 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace. This has got to be depressing for Roy Hogsdon. Very depressing. Losing at home by the same score to Liverpool is completely understandable. Losing away to Watford is completely understandable. But this result is very bad. If Crystal goes down and/or Southampton stays up, remember this match.

It’s 1300 CDT (1900 BST), and I must say, it is beyond liberating not to be a slave to the boob tube watching college football. I am not controlled by kickoff times. I am not controlled by the game being tied with two minutes to play. I am free to do what I want. And I love it.

Ready for some jolly good football

When I wake up tomorrow morning, the first thing I’m watching is Leicester City vs. Liverpool at 0630 (1230 British Summer Time).

Matchweek Four in the Premier League. I feel a bit out of place not drinking hot tea and munching on crumpets while watching, but my homemade sausage muffins (for Leicester-Liverpool) and cold cut sandwiches (for Manchester City-Newcastle at 1130 CDT/1730 BST) will do fine.

I’m hoping the Foxes will recapture some of the magic that spurred them to the 2015-16 PL championship, but I’m also a realist. Liverpool is playing out of this world through its first three matches, and I can’t see Jurgen Klopp’s men giving any ground at the KP. Leicester will make it quite entertaining, but the Reds head back to Liverpool with 12 points out of a possible 12.

The featured match at 0900 CST/1500 BST is Chelsea welcoming Bournemouth to Stamford Bridge. The Cherries showed quite a bit of heart after rallying from 2-0 down to Everton last Saturday at Dean Court to pull out a draw, but that will be fatal this time. The Blues have taken well to Mauricio Sarri following last season’s rocky ride under Antonio Conte. Eddie Howe’s men have a fighting shot to leave London with a point, but I can’t see it. Chelsea matches Liverpool at 12 points.

Elsewhere in that 1500 BST window, two matches have rout written all over it: Crystal Palace vs. Southampton at Selhurst and Everton vs. Huddersfield at Goodison. The home teams clearly have the upper hand in these.

Huddersfield can’t score, and the Toffees have to be angry after dropping two points on the south coast last week. Roy Hogsdon’s team has lost two in a row after winning on opening day at Fulham, and the Eagles figure to get well against a Saints team which couldn’t hold a 1-0 lead at home in losing to Leicester last week.

Fulham is feeling good after a 4-2 victory over Burnley at Craven Cottage, but it now goes to the south coast to face Brighton & Hove Albion, which defeated Manchester United 3-2 the last time it took the pitch at AMEX Stadium. This one ends in a 2-2 draw.

West Ham is at the foot of the table, and Wolverhampton comes to London following a thrilling draw vs. Manchester City at Molineux. The Hammers will still be stuck on zero when full time arrives. Wolves win their first Premier League match since 2012.

Manchester City vs. Newcastle? Pep Guardiola’s side will run riot over the Magpies at the Etihad. Considering City was hosed on two calls last week at Molineux, it will leave no doubt. I would not be shocked if City scores seven or eight.

Sunday’s early match (0730 CDT/1330 BST) is Cardiff hosting Arsenal. The 1000 CDT/1600 BST fixtures are Manchester United at Burnley and Tottenham at Watford. More on those next time.

I need to get to bed! I won’t have this problem next weekend, because there are no PL matches.

Four days in a TV wasteland

I’ve got some opinions on a sport I don’t give a crap about anymore. I don’t have time to go over them right now, since I have to be up before 0630 tomorrow for the first Premier League match of the day, Wolves vs. Manchester City at Molineux. I don’t expect City to have much trouble.

Liverpool plays the night game (1730 British Summer Time, or 1130 Central) at home vs. Brighton, which is sky high after defeating Manchester United last Sunday. .The Reds figure to hold serve at home and stay atop the table.

Bournemouth tries to keep it going, too, hosting Everton on the south coast. The other south coast match has Southampton hosting Leicester. There easily could be two draws. I’ll have to watch those matches on NBC Sports Gold, since the 0900 CDT (1500 BST) match is Arsenal vs. West Ham at the Emirates. The Gunners should get off the goose egg and keep the Hammers in the mire of the relegation zone.

I’ve been watching too much Netflix, especially Insatiable, where Debby Ryan (formerly of Disney Channel’s Jessie) goes from bullied overweight girl to beauty queen under the direction of lawyer/coach Bob Armstrong, portrayed by Dallas Roberts, who played two murderers on Law & Order: SVU, as well has had a recurring role on The Good Wife. Alyssa Milano plays Bob’s wife, Coralee, while Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs) plays Bob Barnard, Bob Armstrong’s archrival.

There are a few movies starring Ryan I need to catch up on. She’s fantastic.

Atypical, the Netflix series where Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as the mother of an autistic son played by Keir Gilchrist, will roll out the second season two weeks from tonight.

We’re one week away from baseball armageddon, Orioles at Royals. The O’s lost their 91st game tonight, and KC needs to rally or else it will fall to 38-91. Since it’s a weekend series, the Royals are still seeing fit to charge outrageous prices for tickets. Wow.

Seriously, I need to sleep. Gotta watch my Premier League.

Great football for a great price

For those of you who have not subscribed to the NBC Sports Gold Premier League package, I would highly recommend it. For just $49.95, you get every Premier League match not shown on NBC or NBC Sports Network. If you’re not a fan of the “Big Six” clubs–Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur–it is a lifeline. I should know; Leicester City is rarely on television in the United States even after winning the championship in 2015-16.

That’s all–$49.95 for a whole season of excellent football. Compare that to the ridiculous price you’d have to pay for NFL Sunday Ticket, plus the subscription to DirecTV.

Advertising over.

Liverpool won 2-0 at Crystal Palace yesterday to keep pace with Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham, Bournemouth and Watford atop the Premier League with six points. Manchester City leads everyone due to a vastly superior goal differential of plus-7, thanks to a 6-1 thrashing of Huddersfield Town Sunday at the Etihad Stadium.

Meanwhile, on the south coast, Manchester United was defeated 3-2 at the AMEX Stadium by Brighton & Hove Albion, sending Red Devils fans into collective apoplexy. Fans are calling for Jose Mournihino’s head and it could get ugly if United plays poorly at Old Trafford this Monday vs. Tottenham. United won its first match at home vs. Leicester, but looked pretty pedestrian.

I’m not suggesting United is not going to finish in the top seven and miss out on Europe. No way. But the door is definitely open for Bournemouth, Watford, Everton, Crystal Palace and Leicester to make noise and take one of the European spots, especially with United in turmoil and Arsenal still trying to find its footing under Unai Emery.

Huddersfield is minus-8 on goal differential and sits at the foot of the table. I pegged the Terriers for relegation prior to the season, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, since they played Chelsea and Manchester City. If they were minus-8 against, say, Southampton and West Ham, then it would be time to panic. West Ham is also in the drop zone right now, and maybe I had the Hammers too high prior to the season and Watford too low. Southampton, my third pick to be relegated, is about as expected, with one point from matches vs. Burnley and Everton.

Leicester outplayed United and lost, but got outplayed by Wolves and won at the King Power. That’s football. Jamie Vardy isn’t making the trip to St. Mary’s, thanks to the red card he received in the 66th minute vs. Wolves for what was termed a terrible challenge.

I’m at Buffalo Wild Wings in Salina for the first time since April 5. I was in town to get my hair cut–Amber is back at Sport Clips after giving birth to her baby boy August 6–so I figured I would stop in and test my knowledge.

Just saw an advertisement hyping college football on ESPN starting in nine days. NO THANK YOU. I’m sure it will be the major topic of discussion tomorrow morning with Crista.

Why would anyone in their right mind pay $500 to $1,000 just for the opportunity to pay $500 to $1,000 to purchase season tickets? Besides, college football is so freaking predictable. Two of the four playoff spots are already taken by Alabama and Clemson, and you can count legitimate contenders for the other two on one hand.

I’m now wondering why the heck did I even consider going to Baton Rouge for the LSU-Georgia game in October? WHY?

Random Saturday stuff

(I began this post Saturday in Minsky’s. It’s now Tuesday and I’m finally getting back to it. I’ll complete my thoughts here, then post again with an update).

I stand by my decision not to watch college football this season. I should have done this a long time ago. I won’t miss spending Saturdays in some packed sports bar watching people scream their lungs out over the exploits of 18- to 22-year old children.

I heard Zach Smith the lady beater is also a pervert. Ordering sex toys and having them sent to the Ohio State football office? Taking a picture of your genitals in a White House bathroom and holding it next to a towel with the presidential seal? Words cannot describe how disgusted I am hearing about this piece of fecal matter. If Urban Meyer is allowed to coach again, then shame on Ohio State. But I don’t care, I won’t watch.

Speaking of fecal matter, the man in Colorado who has been charged with killing his pregnant wife and two daughters qualifies. Big time. He’s the male version of Susan Smith, the woman in South Carolina whom in 1994 claimed her toddler sons were kidnapped by a black man, only to confess days later she actually rolled her car into a lake and drowned them.

Colorado does have the death penalty, as much as leftist Governor John Hickenlooper has tried to get rid of it. Hopefully this piece of scum will be convicted and sent to death row. Barring that, he should be

Hy-Vee sucks. No Boar’s Head cold cuts. Instead Hy-Vee sells some crap I don’t like. Price Chopper doesn’t sell it, either. So I have to traipse back into Kansas to go to Hen House. The closest location to Missouri now that the one on 64th Street is closed is in Fairway off Shawnee Mission Parkway. I’ve become more familiar with the area by going to Joe’s and the salon for my back waxing, so I didn’t get too lost today going to the one in Fairway.

I’ve got two pounds of mortadella and two pounds of capicola to ferry back to Russell, plus cheese. Expensive cold cuts, but so, so good. And still cheaper than eating at McDonald’s or Sonic in Russell, or Taco Bell in Hays, and especially Buffalo Wild Wings.

The closest place that sells Boar’s Head is Dillon’s in Salina, at Ohio and Cloud. I have bought it there often, but since I’m in KC, it isn’t going to take up much space to haul it 250 miles west. The bread I like was on sale at Hen House, too, so I bought four loaves for the price of three.

I’ve finally learned how to use a drip coffeemaker. When I tried it yesterday morning, it had too much in there, and it was quite strong. My dad told me not to put so much in there, and this morning, it worked great. I’ve invested $170 in my Keurig and the money in the pods, but at least now i have the adapters for ground coffee in that one, plus I can work a regular one in a hotel.

The Chiefs scored more points than the Falcons in last night’s exhibition in Atlanta. Everyone is raving over Patrick Mahomes’ 69-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill late in the first half, because it traveled nearly the whole distance in the air.

Mahomes is being hailed as the best Chiefs quarterback since Len Dawson. Come on. One regular season game vs. a 4-11 Broncos team and an exhibition does not a career make.

The Cardinals outscored the Saints 20-15. Arizona is 2-0 now in exhibitions. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cards win no more than two when the games count.

Woke up at 0610, just in time to watch English football. The first match of the day in the Premier League, Newcastle United at Cardiff City, kicked off at 1230 British Summer Time (0630 Central). Goalless draw, the first of the 2018-19 Premier League campaign. Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, the first Premier League player from the Philippines, stopped a penalty kick in second half stoppage time, the second penalty he has saved this year. If Etheridge keeps it up, he will rival Manny Pacquiao as the most popular athlete in the Philippines..

In the 1500 BST (0900 CDT) matches, Leicester City took advantage of an own goal by Wolverhampton and a brace by James Maddison just before halftime for a 2-0 victory at the King Power Stadium.

In London, Bournemouth gave up a first half penalty to fall behind West Ham, but two goals in seven minutes in the second half powered the Cherries to a 2-1 victory and six points. I’m well aware Bournemouth probably won’t be contending for a spot in Europe, but every point Eddie Howe’s men take against teams not in the top six (Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea) is huge.

The other London match in that window saw Tottenham easily oust Fulham 3-1, meaning the Cottagers are still stuck on zero points, as is West Ham.

In Liverpool, Everton thrashed Southampton 3-1. Nothing unexpected there

Arsenal is also stuck in the starting blocks, thanks to a 3-2 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The first half featured two goals by each side, but the Blues struck in the 81st minute to keep pace with Tottenham and Bournemouth, with Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool all favored to win their upcoming matches, although Liverpool will be tested by Crystal Palace at Selhurst.

Tiger won! Not really, but some would have you believe otherwise

Did Brooks Koepka win the PGA Championship? I couldn’t tell. By the homepage of ESPN.com, CBSSports.com, and many newspapers, Tiger Woods won, even though the scoreboard I checked showed Woods two shots behind Koepka.

The drooling love affair with Eldrick Woods has gone on since the weekend of April 10-13, 1997, when he won The Masters, the first of his 14 major championships. When Tiger was forced off the course by injury following the 2008 U.S. Open, and again by various injuries earlier this decade, fans on message boards bitched and moaned and said they would not watch golf until Tiger was playing again.

It’s not as if golf is going to die without Eldrick Woods. Koepka has won three of the last six majors. Jordan Spieth is only a PGA away from the career grand slam, and Rory McIlroy will wrap it up if he wins The Masters. Dustin Johnson is the top ranked player in the world, with Justin Thomas a close second. Phil Mickelson is still chasing the career slam, needing the U.S. Open.

There are a lot more marketable players out there today than there were 50 years ago, when it was Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and a whole lot of good but not great players who really didn’t move the needle. Lee Trevino took Palmer’s place among the big names in the late 1960s, and once Player and Nicklaus passed their prime, it was wide open, even though nobody had the star power that the Golden Bear and Arnie had.

People were scalping tickets for as much as $2,000 in St. Louis for Sunday’s final round at the PGA. That’s enough to buy season tickets for the Cardinals or Blues. Kopeka and Adam Scott were the final pairing, and both played with far smaller galleries than what Woods and Gary Woodland did.

Eldrick is part of a cadre of athletes American media drools over. The others are Serena Williams, LeBron and Tom Brady. Baseball doesn’t have a specific athlete, but the Red Sox and Yankees get all the headlines, with the Cubs getting them to a lesser extent. The NHL has not had that problem as much, although the national media couldn’t stop peeing in their pants about the Vega$ Golden Knight$.

I don’t watch very much golf, simply because I’ve had enough of Mr. Woods. I don’t watch any tennis. Haven’t since the late 1980s. I’m sick of the Williams sisters on the women’s side, and the men’s side is the same people over and over and over: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic. The NFL holds little appeal these days, at least the AFC does. And don’t get me started on the NBA.

In sports I actually watch, Liverpool flexed its muscles Sunday by thrashing West Ham 4-0 at Anfield. The Reds appear to be well-positioned to be Manchester City’s chief challenger for the Premier League championship. City opened with a 2-0 victory at Arsenal, ruining Unai Emery’s first match as manager of the Gunners. I didn’t watch the Liverpool match, simply because I knew West Ham had zero chance. I instead streamed Southampton-Burnley, which ended 0-0 at St. Mary’s.

Now there are no Premier League matches until Saturday morning. I’m stuck between bad MLB and NFL exhibitions until then if I want to watch live sports. Of course, there’s the Little League World Series, which I absolutely refuse to watch because of the “mandatory play” rule.

I’m now on to season three of The O.C. UGH. I hated season three, simply because there were so many characters whom I despised: Dean Hess, Charlotte Morgan, Taylor Townsend (the evil version; she makes a 180 in season four), Veronica Townsend (god I love Paula Trickey, but Veronica was downright mean, which shows Trickey is a tremendous actress), the scuzzy loan sharks who beat up Jimmy Cooper, Johnny Harper, Casey, Seung-Ho (the sexually obsessive boyfriend of the equally sexually obsessive Taylor) , the “HarborĀ  Heckler” (an unnamed character who is so cruel to Seth and Taylor that I want to climb through the screen and squeeze his testicles until they pop, then go Lorena Bobbitt on his penis) and of course, Kevin Volchok and all of the lowlife scum associated with him, particularly Heather, the evil bitch who does all she can to make Marissa’s life a living hell at Newport Union.

Then again, I wish Volchok would have found the heckler and beat the living crap out of him. If it were possible to hate a character more than Volchok and Oliver Trask, the heckler was that character. He and Felix Tagarro from One Tree Hill always make me extremely nauseous.

The only bright spot I could think of that season was Dawn Atwood (Daphne Ashbrook) putting her life back together. Josh Schwartz and the rest of The O.C.‘s production staff should have brought Dawn back in season four so she could rescue Ryan from his deep depression caused by Marissa’s murder.

Not to say season three was 100 percent bad. Just saw the scene where Seth scratches his face with his middle finger, flipping off Taylor. Priceless.

English football fever

The third day of the 2018-19 Premier League campaign is only hours away.

Liverpool hosts West Ham and Burnley visits Southampton at 0730 Central (1330 British Summer time), while Manchester City kicks off its title defense at Arsenal, which plays its first match under new manager Unai Emery. That fixture starts at 1000 Central (1600 BST).

Very few surprises the first two days. The only draw was an exciting 2-2 fixture at Molineux between Wolverhampton, playing its first Premier League match in six years, and Everton, which had to play the final 50 minutes down a man after Phil Jagielka was shown a red card, the first of the new campaign.

I didn’t wake up early enough to catch the Newcastle-Tottenham match. Spurs won 2-1. I watched the Huddersfield-Chelsea match until the Blues scored the first goal; at that point, I figured the Terriers were toast. Indeed, Chelsea rolled 3-0.

I bought the NBC Sports Gold package so I can watch all the Premier League matches which are not televised. My first online match was Bournemouth hosting Cardiff City, with the Cherries winning 2-0 at home over the newly promoted Welsh side.

The other 0900 Central matches were also 2-0. Crystal Palace won at London rival Fulham, spoiling the Cottagers’ return to the top flight after a four-year absence, while Watford, whom I pegged for relegation in my predictions, bested Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 at Vicarage Road.

Manchester United bested my Leicester City Foxes 2-1 at Old Trafford Friday evening (in Britain; late afternoon here in Kansas). The Foxes were done in by a very early handball (three minutes in) which gave the Red Devils a penalty kick that was converted by Paul Pogba, who played for France’s World Cup championship team earlier this summer. Jamie Vardy did put Leicester on the board in second half stoppage time, but it couldn’t prevent Leicester from falling to 2-7-16 all-time vs. United.

I did two B-52 shots this evening. I don’t have anywhere to be tomorrow.

There are only two “exhibition games” taking place tonight in the NFL, Minnesota at Denver and the Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona. Don’t ask me who’s winning. I don’t care. Remember, the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns each went undefeated in exhibition games…and winless in games which counted.

The epic showdown between the Orioles and Royals in Kansas City is on the horizon. Baltimore may already have 100 losses.

I’m watching The O.C. all over again. Last Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of its premiere. Right now I’m finishing the episode where there was a rainstorm (“The Rainy Day Women”), where Seth (Adam Brody) gets hung up on the roof attempting to fix the satellite dish at the Cohen mansion; Summer (Rachel Bilson) comes looking for him and they kiss. It’s the final appearance of Lindsay Gardner (Shannon Lucio) and Rebecca Bloom (Kim Delaney), and the beginning of the end of the relationship between Marissa (Mischa Barton) and Alex (Olivia Wilde).

The 15th anniversary of the debut of One Tree Hill is Sept. 23. I will probably have to go through that series all over again, but it will take a lot longer. I will need some valium, or at least four B-52 shots, to get through the episodes with that piece of fecal matter Felix.

As Genesis sang in 1983, that’s all.

Are you ready for some football?

The first full weekend of National Football League exhibition games, aka scrimmages with teams in uniform, began tonight. The Chiefs are hosting the Texans, the Saints are in Jacksonville, and Baker Mayfield made his unofficial debut with the Browns vs. the Giants in New Jersey.

I am not watching any exhibition gridiron football. Wake me up the evening of September 6, when the Falcons and Eagles play for real in Philadelphia.

Besides, the REAL football season kicks off in about 18 hours.

That’s when Manchester United welcomes Leicester City to Old Trafford to kick off the 2018-19 Premier League campaign. Most teams start their seasons Saturday, while a few play Sunday, including Arsenal and Manchester City at London’s Emirates Stadium.

The 20 teams of the Premier League, from Newcastle in the North East of England to Bournemouth, Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton on the South Coast, plus 16 teams from points in between, will do battle through Mother’s Day.

It’s simple. Teams play 38 total matches, 19 home and 19 away, facing each opponent twice. No playoffs. The winner of the league is determined solely upon the season. The top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the UEFA Champions League of 2019-20, while the bottom three will be relegated to the English Football League Championship, the second tier of English football. The top two teams in the Championship will take their place in the Premier League in 2019-20, while the third through sixth place teams in the Championship face a playoff, with the survivor earning the golden ticket to the top.

Manchester City is the defending champion. Pep Guardiola’s club was thoroughly dominant throughout 2017-18, going 30-7-1 (draws are listed before losses in association football) and becoming the first team since the formation of the Premier League in 1992-93 to finish with 100 points. City earned points 99 and 100 with a goal in the final minute of stoppage time on the final day of the season at Southampton to secure a 1-0 victory.

Manchester United finished second, but 19 points behind its archrival. Tottenham Hotspur held off hard-charging Liverpool for third, 77 points to 75.

Swansea City (33), Stoke City (33) and West Bromwich Albion (31) were relegated to the Championship. Taking their place are Wolverhampton, which won the Championship; Championship runner-up Cardiff City; and Fulham, which defeated Aston Villa in the playoff final.

I don’t consider myself an expert on association football, but I’m going to give it my best shot as to the order of finish:

  1. Manchester City–There’s no reason Pep’s men can’t continue their dominance. Maybe not to the tune of 100 points, but still clearly head and shoulders above the rest.
  2. Liverpool–Jurgen Klopp will have the Reds in contention all season. Momentum from strong transfers and UEFA Champions League final appearance.
  3. Tottenham–Mauricio Pochettino will keep Spurs high up the chart, but still searching for breakthrough.
  4. Manchester United–Jose Mourinhino will feel heat, especially if City comes anywhere close to duplicating last year’s success.
  5. Chelsea–Blues have bounced back and forth between the top and less than impressive finishes. That trend won’t continue. New manager Mauricio Sarri will find the grind of the Europa League and the Premier League to be brutal.
  6. Arsenal–Ditto for Unai Emery, who succeeds the legendary Arsene Wenger in North London. The Gunners should be able to avoid dropping too far, but the Champions League is probably out of reach this year.
  7. Crystal Palace–The Eagles’ obituaries were flowing last September after they lost their first seven games and did not even score a goal. Roy Hogsdon took over and had Palace playing the best football in the Prem outside of Manchester City and Liverpool. Europe is definitely within reach. No relegation worries this year at Selhurst.
  8. West Ham–Manuel Pellegrini’s club will enjoy its best season since moving to London Stadium. The Hammers need to avoid the dreadful starts of the previous two seasons; if they can, European football is a possibility.
  9. Wolverhampton–The Wolves have the best chance of the three promoted sides to succeed. Lots of fun at Molineux on the way.
  10. Leicester City–The Foxes need to stop living off their fairy tale 2015-16 season. It may never happen again, but there’s no reason Leicester should be near the bottom of the table, either, as its has been at points during the previous two campaigns.
  11. Everton–Wayne Rooney is gone. So is Sam Allardyce. Marco Silva is in charge of the Toffees. Goodison
  12. Newcastle–The Magpies somehow finished 10th a year ago, a credit to Rafa Bentiez’s managerial acumen. A similar mid-table finish is likely.
  13. Fulham–Shahid Khan has poured enough money into the Cottagers, just like he has done with the Jaguars, to make Fulham competitive in its first year back in the top flight.
  14. Bournemouth–Eddie Howe is a genius. By all rights, the Cherries should be doomed simply because Dean Court (aka Vitality Stadium) seats less than 12,000, but lo and behold, Bournemouth hasn’t been seriously threatened with relegation the last two years. Impressive.
  15. Burnley–The Clarets qualified for the Europa League by finishing seventh last season, but was it because Burnley was so good or there was a ton of mediocrity mid-table? The latter is probably right. The Clarets will stay up, but it will be a hairy season at Turf Moor.
  16. Southampton–The Saints were fortunate to escape the drop. It will be a close call again. Buckle up at St. Mary’s.
  17. Brighton–Same goes at the AMEX Stadium, where the Seagulls must score more and tighten their back line.
  18. Watford–The Hornets were a sieve last year, yielding 64 goals. Only Stoke (68) gave up more. New manager Javi Garcia faces a long road to hoe at Vicarage Road. Watford may be on borrowed time at the top.
  19. Huddersfield–The Terriers had trouble scoring (28 goals) and stopping the other team from scoring (58), yet somehow did just enough to stay up in their first season in the top flight since Edward Heath was Prime Minister. I don’t see Huddersfield making it to a third year.
  20. Cardiff City–The Bluebirds’ only Premier League season, 2013-14, saw them finish dead last and return immediately to the Championship. History will repeat itself. Neil Warnock performed a miracle in guiding Cardiff to second in the Championship last year, but it is weaker than some of the teams in the second tier, and probably the weakest by far in the Prem. Cardiff shouldn’t approach Derby County’s woeful 2007-08 season which saw it go 1-8-29 and finish with 11 points and a minus-69 goal differential, but it could be close.

We’ll revisit this post throughout the season to see how (badly) I’m doing.

Remember, 1400 CDT (2000 British Summer Time) tomorrow at Old Trafford. Football is back!